What is Fecal Coliform and Should You Perform a Water Test to Find It?
Fecal Coliform. Sounds a bit unpleasant, doesn’t it. But what is it exactly? Are you sure you want to know? …Okay…Basically, it’s bacteria found in poop, and you don’t want to find any of that in your water. Not because it’s so harmful, necessarily, but because of what else can come with it. Performing a water test will tell you what’s lurking in your water. One of the most basic tests looks for Fecal Coliform.
Fecal Coliform is bacteria that get into the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and it pops up in animal droppings and human bodily waste. It is in the soil too. But don’t get upset! We humans need to have these bacteria to help us digest food. Small portions of this bacteria is usually found in swimming pools and the water in our wells or municipal supply, and a little is not concerning, although really there shouldn’t be any. However, finding it in large amounts indicates that the water has some fecal contamination. You probably already know this contaminant as E. coli and you know that it can cause serious human illness. The presence or absence of these bacteria in a water test determines if the water is properly disinfected.
If coliform is present, then other bacteria, viruses or disease-causing organisms might also be present so finding E.coli where you don’t want it is a warning that a water test needs to be done to see what else is in there. You won’t know by the taste or appearance of the water if coliform bacteria are present, so a regular water test should become habit if your drinking water comes from your own well source. If you do find some, it’s best not to drink it, of course. If you must, boil it for at least one minute. Let it boil even longer if you live at a high altitude.
Drinking contaminated water can cause stomach and intestinal illnesses like nausea or diarrhea. The symptoms are bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Sometimes there is fever, but often there is none. These things are common to many other illnesses, but bloody poop should always be checked. Symptoms of E.coli infection usually occur within 2-4 days but it can take longer, up to 8 days in some cases. Most people recover easily within 5-10 days. In babies, elderly or people with other illnesses, the results can be more serious, even fatal. In children or the elderly, the infection can become ‘hemolytic uremic syndrome’, which causes kidney failure.
Of course, you keep your water well healthy, don’t you? It’s regularly maintained and solidly built, you check the caps and seals often, but still some contaminants can get into your well supply. It comes from flooding, agricultural run-off, or overflowing sewage tanks or septic systems. It can also come from animals that may get into the well. So, do a water test on the water from your well at least once per year and that’s only if nothing has changed. If there have been any environmental changes in the area, such as flooding, perform a water test as soon as possible.
The test is done in two stages. If, after the first test, you find that Fecal Coliform is present in your water, do a second water test to find out what other harmful contaminants are present. A contaminated well needs to be thoroughly cleaned with chlorine to kill the bacteria.
Fecal Coliform is one of the first things a water test will look for. Use a trusted water test service and laboratory to help you. AquaKnow.com is a trusted and affordable water quality testing service. Once you have taken a water test sample, our laboratories will interpret those results for you. Contact us at 877-734-7661 to consult with a representative. We will advise you which tests you will need and ship a test kit to you with clear and easy instructions as to how to collect the water sample and return it to the lab. We are here to answer any questions you may have.